BROTHERS and SISTERS, each of us having a different gift according to the grace given to us, let us use them: having prophecy, prophesy in proportion to faith; in ministry, use it to minister; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, give with generosity; the leader, lead with diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Let love be without hypocrisy, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.
Love and hate. Which one of them is a Christian virtue and which one is a vice?
What if I told you that both can be a Christian virtue and a vice? We are called by the Lord to practice love towards each and every person in our life. But, we are also called to hate things. Hate is part of our human being. We can't eradicate hate anymore than we can eradicate the need to breath. Both love and hate need to be used properly, it is possible to love and hate the wrong things.
So how do we love? Saint Paul says, "Love without hypocrisy." Unhypocritical love is sincere love, and it is pointing to something very human. Basic Christian truth is that we should love our brothers and sisters, neighbors, and even enemies. It is easy to say, "I love everybody." But what does this phrase mean? We say we "love everybody" when we don't have anything against anyone (that we are willing to admit) at the moment of saying it. It's a common and simple mistake, however, because we consider lack of caring, benign indifference for love.
Love, in fact, is an action, it requires specific action on our part. It's not what we say or feel. Many people today, including Christians, think that sincere love is the one that is sincerely felt. This logic says that if we do not feel love for someone, then we do not really love them. Feelings have very little to do with sincerity and love. Again, love without hypocrisy is an action.
So, how do we practice love without hypocrisy? Saint Paul provides more than a few examples, "Love one another with mutual affection" - love is mutual and love is for people around us. Loving someone on the other side of the world is not much of love because we don't have to deal with that person. "Outdo one another in showing honor" - do not expect honor, rather show it more and better than others do it for you. "Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers" - specific actions of love, help those in need and offer hospitality. "Bless those who persecute you" - basically, love your enemies.
On the other end of love is hate. When we do not hate someone, it does not automatically mean that we love them. Just like lack of love is not hate. As I said, hate is part of our being, so it's all about how and what we hate. Saint Paul says, "Hate what is evil." It's inevitable that we will practice hate, so hate sin. The key is to hate your own sin, not someone else's.
We do not hate evil by being violent toward it. We hate it by being aggressing in our prayer, fasting, and charity trying to eradicate it in ourselves. And when we hate evil, we, by default, can't hate other human beings. There is a famous saying, "Love the sinner, but hate the sin." When someone does something wrong, we direct all our love towards that person, and all our hate towards his actions.
Love is an action directed towards specific people, hate is an action directed towards our personal sins.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest